Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were all smiles and handshakes for the first part of Thursday’s debate in Austin, but it didn’t take long for two presidential hopefuls to get down to business as they faced off to see who is fit to inherit the aftermath of the Bush administration.
The debate marked the first time the two have shared the stage since Obama’s ten state winning streak, leaving Hillary in an almost must win situation.
For 45 minutes, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois and Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York conceded each other’s statements on plans concerning Cuba, a greener economy, and middle-class tax codes, stating that many of their views fall in line with that of the Democratic party. Clinton started off the debate by localizing her congressional accomplishments as she has done in previous debates. In her opening statement, she took the opportunity to point out the 21,000 National Gaurds and 350,000 Texas children who have received health care because of her efforts.
Obama opted to follow Hillary’s statement after winning the coin toss and went on to provide anecodotes of cases he has seen along the campaign trail. In his opening statement, Obama spoke of mothers who have lost their sons in Iraq, workers without jobs and students without health care.
The debate was set up as more of a conversation session where candidates were encouraged to exchange dialogue and did not have a time limit to answer questions put forth by the moderator. During the second half of the 90 minute debate, responses from the candidates became heated and direct as panelist John King questioned the potential Presidents about past statements the candidates have made questioning each other’s credibility. Last week, Clinton accused Obama of using a speech from supporter Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick. Clinton delivered the first jab by reiterating charges of plagiarism against Obama in what became the most memorable line of the night.
“If your candidacy is going to be about words, then they should be your words,” Clinton said. “And you know, lifting whole passages from someone else’s speeches is not change you can believe in, it’s change you can Xerox,” a line that filled the UT Recreational Sports Center with boos of disapproval.
Obama denied the accusations by saying, “The notion that I plagiarized from somebody who was one of my national co-chairs, who gave me the line and suggested I use it, I think, is silly, and you know, this is where we start getting into silly season in politics.
“Clinton attacked Obama’s experience and referred to Sen. Kirk Watson, who could not recall any of Obama’s legislative successes when asked on MSNBC Tuesday night.”I have to confess, I was somewhat amused the other night when, on one of the TV shows, one of Sen. Obama’s supporters was asked to name one accomplishment of Sen. Obama, and he couldn’t,” Clinton said.
In reponse, Obama went on to note his 20 years of public service in which he worked “to provide health care to people who didn’t have it, to provide tax breaks to families that needed it, to reform a criminal justice system that had resulted in wrongful convictions, to open up our government and to pass the toughest ethics reform legislation since Watergate.”
At one point, the debate was snatched from CNN moderator Campbell Brown as the candidates discussed the vital health care issue. Even after Univision moderator Jorge Ramos posed another question to the candidates, Clinton continued on with the topic of health care and was followed by a response from Obama. The tangent derailed the debate until moderators were able to step in and proceed with the remaining questions. The night’s final question asked both candidates to recall a moment in their life that challenged them. Obama discussed the “rocky periods” of his youth and how he overcame them while Clinton told the audience that “everyone here knows I’ve lived through some crisis and some challenging moments in my life.” The exchange ended with a standing ovation, though many Democratic officials are still unable to give a clear verdict on who won the debate or a clear prediction on who will win the party’s nomination.
“After watching our two highly qualified Democratic candidates address the issues that matter most to Texans and all Americans, it’s clear Texas Democrats are the winners of [the] debate,” Texas Democratic Party Chair Boyd Richie said. “We witnessed history in the making right in our own back yard, and thanks to the work of Democrats all across our great state, we’re prepared to play a pivotal role in selecting the next President of the United States.”
The candidates head to Ohio today for another debate hosted by NBC News and Cleveland State University.